I feel it has been remiss of me not to have mentioned the Dante’s Inferno retrospective program of films by Joe Dante until now. Gremlins and Innerspace and certainly childhood favourites of mine and I’m hoping to catch the latter purely for nostalgic reasons. I also very fondly remember watching Gremlins 2: The New Batch while originally studying cinema as it’s a wonderful example of the type of parody, pastiche, self reflexivity and pop culture referencing that would come to define the 1990s with the Wayne’s World films and the massively successful The Simpsons. Highly recommended if you’ve never seen it before.
Last night I went to a screening of three of Dante’s short works including It’s a Good Life, his excellent contribution to Twilight Zone: The Movie. The rather unremarkable western Lightning was also screened but the highlight was Dante’s 2005 zombie soldier film Homecoming. Made for the cable television series Masters of Horror, Homecoming is about dead American soldiers who come back to walk among the living in order to vote in the next election to get rid of the Republican party for sending them to their deaths. The satire is as blunt as it comes but Dante is clearly not trying to be subtle. Extremely funny and subversive, Homecoming addresses media manipulation, spin doctoring, the religious right, election rigging and concealing information from the public. Is anybody in any doubt that zombie films can provide incredible social commentary? I just wish Homecoming was made into a feature.
I also went to see Bibliothèque Pascal, by Hungarian director Szabolcs Hajdu. It’s about a woman who is sold into the sex trade and forced to work in a very exclusive club that caters to various literary fantasies (she starts off playing the part of Joan of Arc from Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan). Bibliothèque Pascal has a similar heightened reality/Magical Realist feel to it as many of the films by Emir Kusturica and leading up to the club scenes this lush combination of music, colour and absurdity is very seductive. However, when the action does move to the club where the women (and young men and children) are kept against their will, drugged, beaten and raped, the high level of artistic stylisation left me feeling a little uncomfortable. I wasn’t so sure about the fact that such scenarios were being used to create extravagant tableaux. However, the more I consider Bibliothèque Pascal the more I appreciate it for challenging me the way that is has. After all, being challenged and provoked is a big part of what festivals like MIFF are all about.